‘Words can’t express how much I miss him’
Barry Flowers and his memorial race
“The two days when Barry went missing until his body was found were the longest of my life. And the worst snowstorm Barry and his friend, Burton Winters, and the entire community had seen in a very long time. It seems like a dream that I want to wake up and see him. I just expect him to walk through the door with his happy smile.”
Trudy Flowers is still devastated at the loss of her only child that horrible day.
Barry and his friend, Burton Winters, were snowmobiling back to Hopedale from Makkovik when they blew a piston in the middle of a terrible winter storm not far out the bay from home. In spite of the nasty weather, the two young men opted to walk back.
Barry, who had a bad hip that would require a replacement when he was older, suggested that Burton follow the wood path, while he walked on the solid sea ice. After parting ways, Barry must have become disoriented from the ground-drifting and ended up walking away from and not toward home.
Search parties worked frantically throughout the night until the blinding weather called a halt to their operations. The Moravian Mission Church bells rang out in the hope of finding Barry.
Trudy says all the searchers and in particular Dean Coombs, Hans Flowers, and Kevin Flowers are to be commended for risking their own lives in an effort to find Barry. But to no avail. Two days later at four in the morning his Uncle Greg Flowers, accompanied by his half-husky and full border collie, found Barry, but sadly too late. Trudy was left childless and in mourning.
“Barry was a fun-loving, helpful, smart, caring young man,” Trudy said. “He would give anyone a helping hand whenever he could and could always be found working away at odds and ends. He would do anything for me and his Nan and Gramp as well as his extended family.”
Barry loved the outdoors, but he had very little time for school. Barry’s active lifestyle belied the fact that as a six year-old with a hip problem he had to wear a brace for two years. No matter what, he never let his physical limitation hold him back. Trudy remembers lovingly, how much he enjoyed hunting with his friends and cooking up a meal of their catch of the day.
“And he loved Ski-doos,” she said.
“He was a brilliant young man who was all-in for hunting, fishing, repairing Ski-doos and ATVs,” Amos Comenius Memorial School principal Dean Coombs said. “He was a fun-loving student whose pockets just might conceal a dead mouse, squirrel, or even a lemming. Even though he didn’t care much for school, his brilliance shone through when one time he took a Trappers’ Education course in Goose Bay and scored 100 per cent.”
Trudy is a single Mom who spent many years in the Teachers’ Education Program in Labrador (TEPL) where she and others would visit different communities to complete their required courses as well as attend semesters at Memorial University.
She taught Primary levels as well as a couple of high school courses and earned her degree in Northern Education from MUN. In all, she taught school for 32 years at Amos Comenius Memorial School in Hopedale while the entire time her parents helped with Barry and ensured she earned her education degree.
There are many ways to honour or grieve a loved one. Trudy chose to remember Barry through something that he loved, snowmobiling. In 2005, the year after his tragic death, she established the Barry Flowers Memorial Snowmobile Race.
Each year in either April or May when the weather conditions are just right, Ian Winters, race organizer, and family members check the ice for smoothness and obstructions for the high-speed race.
“When we first started the Barry race, it was just for men,” Trudy said. “A small number of people came out to take part in the race as well as a few people from the community.”
Trudy says that as the race became more of an annual affair, there were more people involved. She alone has been providing the trophies each year for the first place male and female. As time went by, Trudy, family, and friends fundraised to provide cash prizes to accompany the hardware for the top-three finishers along with smaller gifts like gas, hats and neck warmers.
The race has also been receiving a donation each year from the kamatsiatet — one who watches over — Committee, a group of Hopedale individuals affiliated with the Voisey Bay Nickel Company and whose aim is to improve health and wellness, recreation and the local economy. Trudy thanks the k Committee (as it is locally known), Ian Winters, the people of Hopedale, and especially Ruth and Eileen Flowers who all continue to keep Barry’s memory alive through what he loved doing – snowmobiling on The Land with his friends.
Race organizer, Ian Winters says this year’s event marked the 13th anniversary, and after a long wait, the race was run under perfect conditions and with a good turnout.
“The race varies from year to year depending on ice conditions,” Winters said. “Some years it’s bigger than others in terms of participation and fans.”
In May of 2018 those numbers were down because of the gradual thaw and the long wait for ideal conditions. This year the k Committee and family members raised sufficient funds to support the top three racing prizes in each of the men’s and women’s categories: first place, $250, second, $100, and third, $50.
For the past four years Trudy has kept herself busy by working at the Native Friendship Centre in St. John’s. The Centre’s mission is to serve the Indigenous and broader community through celebration and support of Indigenous culture and the provision of appropriate programs and services delivered in an atmosphere of trust, respect and friendship.
Trudy teaches a craft course and shares her traditional skills with others and says what she really likes about her job is, getting to see people from along the north coast, and especially those from her hometown of Hopedale.
Barry had loved The Land, willingly watched over others, and endured beyond his body’s normal limits as his ancestors had. It is no wonder that in his abbreviated life Barry’s descendancy from the Flowers of Flowers’ Bay and later Nain had led him down a similar path.
Trudy says, “There are no words to express how much I miss him and how much he was loved, and taken away too soon.”
Barry Flowers: June 5, 1984 - Feb. 16, 2004.
First place winner of the 2017 Barry Flowers Memorial Snowmobile Race, Inez Vincent.
2012 race winners.